DE: In Manila our family was very prominent. My mom taught Hebrew to the other Jewish families. There was about a hundred Jewish families in Manila and most of them wanted to keep some Jewish identity. My mom spoke fluent Hebrew so she taught Hebrew to the kids. Whenever there were Jewish holidays, you know, all the Jewish families would get together and it was a very, very amicable, lots of comradery between these hundred families or so. Even now I think my mother’s best friends, her best times were those years in Manila when she was a young mom and everyone got together.
GG: Was there a synagogue and a rabbi there in Manila?
DE: Yeah, yeah, there was. Although there were some things that we couldn’t get. For example a mohel [someone who performs circumcisions]. When my younger brother was born there was no mohel in Manila and we used to usually fly a mohel in from San Francisco to do any brises that came up in Manila. We had big problem with my younger brother because he was born on Rosh Hashanah and eight days later was going to be the day before Yom Kippur and no rabbi, no mohel wanted to travel that far away and be away on Yom Kippur. But we managed to arrange flights so that he could fly to Manila, do the procedure, and fly back to San Francisco before Yom Kippur started.
GG: Thank goodness for the time zones [laughs].
DE: Yeah. My mother’s side of the family is extremely religious. My grandfather, the one from Krakow, deeply, deeply religious man. He was the shochet [kosher butcher]. And although he was never a rabbi in Trieste he was considered as such. He was the chochem [wise man] of the city. I think the rabbis came to him to ask him for his opinion on things. He’s passed away now but I remember him as a deeply, deeply religious man. And…
GG: Did you know your father’s father?
DE: No, my father’s father died before I was born. So both sides of our family really had a lot of Jewish upbringing and passed it on through the generations.
GG: When your parents came to Vancouver where did they affiliate here religiously?
DE: Well, we left Manila in a bit of a hurry because things started to get rough in Manila in the mid-‘70s politically. Martial law was imposed. The army was running the country and anybody who could get out, anybody who had some money, started to leave. And my brothers and I were reaching high school age so my parents always thought we would end up going to university somewhere in North America. So they thought it was a good time to pack up the family and move. But they really had no ties to any other place in the world. My dad had some family in San Francisco and my mom’s family was in Israel but they didn’t, they weren’t so close that they wanted to live either in San Francisco or Israel. So the whole world was open to us and we travelled around for quite a few months trying to decide where we were going to live. And in the end Vancouver won because Vancouver was everything that they always wanted. It was a quiet place, it was in a quiet country where nothing really happens [laughs]. It was beautiful. Schools were good. It was safe. You know, wars were never going to happen here. I think it was everything that they could not get when they were growing up in Europe and in Asia during the war. So we settled here.
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